Invisible Cities (A Harvest/Hbj Book) Paperback – 1978
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“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” — from Invisible Cities In a garden sit the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo — Mongol emperor and Venetian traveler. Kublai Khan has sensed the end of his empire coming soon. Marco Polo diverts his host with stories of the cities he has seen in his travels around the empire: cities and memory, cities and desire, cities and designs, cities and the dead, cities and the sky, trading cities, hidden cities. As Marco Polo unspools his tales, the emperor detects these fantastic places are more than they appear. “Invisible Cities changed the way we read and what is possible in the balance between poetry and prose . . . The book I would choose as pillow and plate, alone on a desert island.” — Jeanette Winterson
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Top Customer Reviews
Every page or two contains an incredibly unique description of a city that itself stands as a symbol for some other deeper meaning. I got the impression that each of these cities could have spawned an entire 300-page novel but you get all of their wonder and meaning condensed into a page or two of beautifully written prose poetry. It's like walking through an art gallery where every painting is not only distinct from every other one, but also different that anything you've ever imagined yourself. For the first half of the book I kept worrying that it couldn't possibly continue to be this good'it did! Then for the second half of the book I kept worrying about the fact that I was quickly running out of pages in what was one of the most special books I've ever read. The cities aren't just interesting for their bizarre and astounding architecture, but also the customs and beliefs of the people that live there and ultimately the meaning that you can find in each of them.
This is all tied together by intermittent conversations between Kahn and Polo and their musings on the nature of reality and meaning.
I don't think that any book will change anyone's life. But the best books give you a new perspective on the world, or a germ of an idea or a glimpse at a feeling'a shred of deeper meaning that you can then take with you and make something out of if you so choose. This is one of those books.
Give it a shot. All it will take is a couple of pages to hook you.
Like Sheherazade recounting her thousand-and-one tales, Polo finds himself in the position of having to recollect for Khan the descriptions of the many cities that he ostensibly possesses. Polo thus becomes the Khan's only source for information about the cities in his territory; hence their 'invisibility.' But the descriptions he gives of the cities seem increasingly fantastic and elaborate. The Khan is skeptical. Polo, for his part, insists that he is being frank.
The question at the center of the book becomes: who possesses these cities? Kublai Khan, or Marco Polo? What are we to make of the possibility that Polo, for all his protestations, is being less than honest with the Khan? In which case, do the cities exist only in the traveler's imagination? If so, is the Khan's empire therefore merely a dream and an invention?
The brevity of each section (1 to 3 pages) and the sensual pleasures Calvino's descriptions provoke makes this book exquisite bed-time reading. In fact, older children would probably also enjoy the beauty of this charming tale.
Wherever the truth may lie, each city Polo describes is simultaneously fantastic and true. Each page captures the magical reality of urban life, in a way that no 'realist' account ever could. Not only is this a great novel, it is a novel all town planners and architects should be forced to read. Calvino reminds us that we will only ever live in cities as grand as our imaginations. What we need is to imagine more vividly.
Most recent customer reviews
It is hard to describe the appeal of this book. You really need to just read it and make sure to absorb every word like you are sipping on the finest cup of latte. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Amazon Customer
A book where minimalism, symbolism, and originality leave lots of open space to inspire creative possibilities.Published 4 months ago by Jeff Hu
Written by a master and as masterfully translated, this is one of the great works of the human imagination.Published 7 months ago by Michael Purves-Smith
a book that you can read again and again and never get tired as you always find new stories within the stories. Read morePublished on June 5 2013 by mohamad
I received the book Invisible Cities within a couple weeks of ordering it. The book looks practically brand new. It came with a packing slip and thank you for ordering. Read morePublished on May 23 2013 by Jo-Ann
"Kublai Khan does not necessarily believe everything Marco Polo says when he describes the cities visited on his expeditions, but the emperor of the Tartars does continue... Read morePublished on Aug. 26 2011 by EA Solinas
i read excerpts from this book a couple years before i got into architecture school, it was one of the things that helped give me that final push into choosing architecture as my... Read morePublished on April 22 2002
i had to read this for school, i hated it. its boring and repetitive. you can read the first 2 or 3 chapters and thats all you need, because it doesnt change. Read morePublished on March 4 2002 by Jon